Faurecia is the latest auto supplier to open a plant at an old Willys-Overland site in Toledo, Ohio. If local authorities succeed in fostering an industrial resurgence there, other suppliers may follow.
The 110-acre Overland Industrial Park is part of approximately 450 acres that the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority is redeveloping on speculation to spur manufacturing investment in Toledo, a city whose industrial base has declined in recent decades. The French interiors supplier will start instrument panel production next spring at an $11 million, 73,000-square-foot plant that will employ 100.
"Our DNA is manufacturing here," Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority CEO Paul Toth told Automotive News. "The glass industry grew up in Toledo. But like many Midwestern cities, over the last two decades, we've lost a lot of that manufacturing."
Toth said he watched manufacturing move overseas or to the southern U.S. or Mexico. But manufacturing is rebounding in the Midwest, he said, and Toledo is determined to capture new investment.
The port authority began its project buying and repurposing land on speculation in 2005, after a study was published about how northwest Ohio wasn't focusing enough on using its older industrial sites.
Toth says the port authority is not limiting its focus to automotive investments, but it wanted to capitalize on the location as an automotive supply chain hub as it was in the past.
"One of our frustrations as a community is that we had lots of companies coming in looking for good-quality, modern, industrial buildings, and we simply don't have them," said Toth. "The majority of the companies looking for space here were automotive Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 suppliers. So we knew there was a market there, specifically around automotive."